Sunday, September 30, 2007

db Bistro Moderne Burger

Beef Aficionado reader Kevin L. recently wrote to ask if I had tried the famous db burger. I had to admit that I had not, but that omission has now been rectified as I tried the vaunted sandwich last week. For the uninitiated, the db burger is Daniel Boulud's take on the venerable American classic. It is made of sirloin filled with Foi Gras, braised short ribs and black truffle served on a Parmesan bun.

What makes a great burger great in my view is that it is better than the sum of it's parts. The db burger deftly manages to reverse this equation, and for the princely sum $32. Here you have some wonderful ingredients, an intensely rich Foi Gras, earthy black truffle, a hearty braised short rib and some how combined they become a stogy amalgam that is lesser than the sum of its parts. The fat to lean ratio is probably quite close to 75%/25% ideal given the richness of the Foi Gra but the sirloin is so lean that it makes for a terrible burger on its own and at least some of the bites will be pure sirloin as the sandwich has a tendency to collapse in on itself, the soft squishy interior unable to with stand the pressures from with out.

Another problem is the size of the whole contraption, it is almost impossible to eat even with two hands. I subscribe to the ideal that Hamburger guru George Motz used when describing what burgers used to be like in mid century America - "you have your coffee and cigarette in one hand and a burger in the other." The beef to bun ratio is way off as the db burger is taller than it is wide. The bun is simply not up to the task of containing the patty, despite being rather tasty.

Quite frankly there is just too much going on here all without a semblance of balance; it is one rich ingredient piled on top of another. The individual flavors homogenize in to a super rich mealy paste, short rib losing all subtlety, Foi Gras losing that lovely velvety texture. This is what happens when you design a burger to be more than a burger, whether it be to gain publicity or to satisfy some perceived market niche or simply because you can.

One of the most heavenly dining experiences of my life was the tasting menu at Mr Boulud's flagship Daniel. It was a wondrous, exquisite experience. The freshness of the ingredients, the pairing of flavors and texture, the presentation were all beyond reproach but it was ultimately, despite being the epitome of bourgeois dining, food with soul. The db burger has no soul, it is dinning for the nouveau riche, those with more money than sense and certainly more money than taste.

db Bistro Moderne
55 W. 44th St.
(bet. 5th & 6th Aves.)
Manhattan, NY

1 comment:

Karo Karapetyan said...

This article deals with something I have spoken about with friends for a long time. Burgers, should be small and handy. They've gotten too big.